Meet Abimbola Jayeola, Nigeria’s 1st female helicopter captain who saved 11 lives in Bristow crash
Abimbola Jayeola is an inspiration. Her landmark achievement in December 2014 needs to be celebrated. That month, she became Nigeria’s first female helicopter captain.
But being Nigeria’s first female helicopter captain is not the only achievement Abimbola Jayeola is known for.
She is one woman who is irrevocably destined for glory because of what she made happen when the odds were against her during a helicopter ride.
On Thursday, February 4, 2016, her spontaneous but right decision helped to avert the death of 11 Nigerians, and didn’t plunge the aviation industry into crisis.
It was Abimbola Jayeola who flew the 5B BJQ Bristow helicopter that was headed to Lagos from Port Harcourt but ended up ditching into the Atlantic Ocean. “Ditching” is a controlled emergency measure to land an aircraft on water.
Skybrary.com, an aviation website, describes ditching as a manoeuvre “that, by definition, cannot be practiced and may be extremely hazardous. It is only contemplated when no other realistic option remains in an emergency or, in the rotary case, imminent emergency situation.”
The chopper, with 11 people — mostly ExxonMobil staff — and two crew members on board, sent a distress message shortly after 10am, and crashed into the Atlantic 20 minutes later.
About 10 minutes later, MV-DIJAMA, a new vessel owned by local Nigerian company L.A.T.C Marine Ltd, was alerted on the accident. It arrived at the crash scene around 11.50am and started rescue operation, with all the passengers already wearing their life jackets.
MV-DIJAMA launched its Fast Rescue Boat immediately and started receiving the casualties from the chopper’s LifeRafts. The accident happened 70 nautical miles off Lagos.
The crash was not entirely incident-free as three survivors suffered hypothermia— a potentially dangerous drop in body temperature usually caused by prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, in this case the Atlantic Ocean. Another survivor had a swollen arm, while the fifth had swollen shoulder.
But it has now been revealed that were it not for the captain Abimbola Jayeola, all the lives aboard would have perished. Kudos to this bold, courageous and fast thinking captain.